Change can be exciting and scary all at once. Whilst we know that children benefit from consistency, life throws a lot of changes our way- some we might foresee and others we may not (like the entire COVID pandemic!). Learning how to cope with change is a valuable life skill that will help your child become more resilient for what lies ahead for them in adult life. So how do we do this?
- When possible, give your child a warning about the impending change ahead of time. This might take the form of multiple conversations, such as about the arrival of a younger sibling or starting school.
- Try to keep other factors in your child’s life as consistent as you can. For example, if yourself and an ex-partner are separating, try to keep other factors such as their childcare centre/kindergarten/school the same, and maintain other routines as much as possible.
- Listen to your child and be willing to answer their questions. They may be repetitive- this is part of your child making sense of it all.
- Acknowledge and validate your child’s emotions.
- Do expect some regression in other areas, such as toileting or behaviour. This is completely normal and will not last forever.
- When possible, spend extra one-on-one time with your child in which you are fully engaged with them and following their lead.
- Give your child choices that achieve the same desired outcome. For example, you could ask your child whether they want cereal or toast- either way, the same desired outcome is achieved within defined parameters (breakfast being eaten). Giving children choices enhances their sense of autonomy and can reduce the feeling of everything in their lives being out of their control.
- Read books to your child about children going through similar experiences. You would be amazed what is out there (I have quite the collection myself!)
- Maintain your usual expectations and limits in other areas. Your child may push against these, hence maintaining them will reassure them that they are secure and safe.
- Reflect on other changes your child has become used to in the past and discuss this with them.
- Remember that it will take some time for your child to adjust, and that is okay.
- Do seek professional help if you need it- that is what we are here for!
Olivia Smith is an endorsed Educational and Developmental Psychologist and is a strong believer in the importance of working collaboratively with families and other professionals to ensure a holistic approach to child wellbeing. She is passionate about advocating for and working with children presenting with anxiety and/or neurodiversity (e.g. ASD, ADHD and specific learning disorders) and their families. Olivia strives to make therapy sessions engaging, effective and applicable to everyday life, and views the relationship between child and therapist as key to success. She is also a certified SOS-feeding therapist.